School is finally out here in Northern Virginia which means we've officially started Summer Travel Baseball around these parts. Summer baseball is similar to Spring baseball except that it involves significantly more sitting in traffic on I-95, more fast food, more sweating, and more overnights in Hampton Inns where I lie awake wondering if we might have embarked on a scientific breakthrough because it seems like my son is growing a new strain of bacteria in his cleats.
It occurred to me as I sat at the sixth game of the weekend at a field in Rocky Mount, North Carolina that this was my 15th summer of watching at least one of my kids on the diamond. You would think it would follow that I would be an expert in baseball knowledge. Surely, I've seen every game situation and strategy, every type of coach and umpire, every manner of fan, and every level of ball player. There couldn't possibly be a single rule or circumstance surrounding the game that would confuse or surprise me at this point in my life, right?
At just about the same time as this thought entered my head, there was a call on the field that left me looking pretty much like this:
The good news is that I wasn't alone in my confusion. I'm not throwing anybody under the bus, but in my experience there can be an equal amount of bewilderment during certain situations in a baseball game by both moms and dads, and even coaches and umpires. (Don't tell anyone I said that.) Thankfully, there always seems to be at least someone who eventually figures it out or at least speaks forcefully enough to convince everyone. In general, I just nod my head and pretend I understood all along. But here's the thing about a whole bunch of rules and circumstances involving America's game:
So if you find yourself a few or fifteen seasons into being a spectator of this game and you still seem baffled at times, I'm here for you. I'm going to give you my most up-to-date list of things about baseball that I still don't understand and likely never will after 15 years of watching the game. They are things that have surprised me and confused me. They have left me shaking my head in wonder and sometimes just plain flat out frustrated me to no end. Some of these things have been explained to me over and over and I'm still in the dark. Here goes.
1. The Balk.
This is by far the number one most confusing situation in baseball for me. It has been described to me somewhere around 7,000 times and I still don't get it. MLB.com takes seven paragraphs to explain it. A balk is something about when a pitcher is on the rubber and makes a motion naturally associated with pitching delivery but does not complete it and something else about his free leg swinging back in some distance near or behind or on top of the rubber during his leg kick and blah, blah, blah. At this point, I fall asleep because WHAT?
Seriously. I'll never be able to pick out a balk. I'll never know what it means to "come set" and frankly, I'll never take the time to read seven paragraphs on MLB.com. This is my advice. Just forget trying to understand it. In the case of a balk, I've determined that my only job is to be outraged when it's called against my team's pitcher and nod my head vigorously as if I totally saw it happen when it's called against the opponent's pitcher. The end.
2. The Big Field.
Once your kid gets past Little League size fields you get to 90 feet between bases as opposed to 60 feet. Near the end of Little League, everyone keeps talking about moving up to the "big field". If you're like me you'll be thinking, "What is the big deal about the big field? How big can it be? So what?"
I'll tell you what. In those first couple of seasons those extra 30 feet will feel like 10 miles. I promise you that once your kid hits the ball and heads down the line, you'll think you could check your emails and get a pedicure during the time it takes him to arrive at 1st base. And the throw across the field? If someone hits the ball down the 3rd baseline, you will think the 3rd baseman is going to throw his arm out of socket trying to get the ball to his 1st baseman. Trust me. In the first couple of seasons on it, the big field seems real big.
3. Different Gloves for Different Positions.
Guess what? None of these is a Catcher's Glove
I'd had two of my three baseball players graduate from high school and stop playing baseball before I learned that this was a thing. Recently after I dropped off my 14 year old third child at practice, he texted me that he forgot his catcher's glove and begged for me to bring it to him. He's generally pretty responsible, so I figured I'd go to the garage and grab it and be a superhero mom. That's when I realized I was looking at three gloves and I couldn't tell the difference in any one of them. I sent a photo of all three to my son asking "Which one?" to which he replied, "None of those."
I never found the right one. My family made fun of me for the next week because they couldn't believe I didn't know the difference after all this time.
4. The Infield Fly.
Each of the criteria required for an infield fly to be called is pretty simple to understand. It's just that there are too many criteria to remember all at one time. If you expect me to have enough situational awareness to recognize that it's an infield fly only if there are runners on 1st and 2nd or 1st, 2nd and 3rd and if there are less than two outs and if it's not a bunt or a line drive, but a fair fly ball and if the umpire deems that ball can be caught with ordinary effort then you have grossly overestimated my ability to remain focused on a game that could potentially last for three hours. We mamas are just trying to remember which one of our kids is allergic to peanut butter and what #9's stepmom's name is. We can't be expected to understand the infield fly rule.
5. White baseball pants.
All I can say about the fact that most baseball players wear white pants is that life is unfair and evil is real. There is no denying it. It just is. The world is broken. There are hurricanes, and orphans, and white baseball pants. That's it.
6. Sunflower seeds.
I do not know why baseball players choose these as their snack of choice, but they do. As far as I'm concerned you might as well just sprinkle salt on a piece of tree bark. Seeds end up in the pockets of baseball pants, the dryer vent, and in the seams of the car seats. I don't know what the fascination is, but it is what it is.
7. I'm not over it yet.
There are things about this game, I'll probably never understand. It's way too hot some days for baseball. It's way too cold some days for baseball. It's way too expensive. There's too much equipment. There's no time limit, so a game can actually potentially last forever and it frequently seems like I'm watching the 71st inning. Baseball game food can be gross. Catcher's gear smells. Really bad. Really, really bad. That rust colored dirt is practically impossible to get out of the uniforms. It takes up your entire Saturday, your entire weekend, your entire summer.
And I'm not one bit ready to let it go yet. This game has given my husband, our sons, and me some of our most cherished friends and our most joy-filled moments. I'm not sure exactly when my view from behind home plate will come to an end, but I'm not ready yet. I see you, 15th summer of baseball. I see you and I'll take a 16th, please. Let's play ball.